I’m always on the lookout for something new to try in Magic: the Gathering. It seems that most players are content to play the same deck every single tournament, pounding away at their opponents with a familiar list of cards that gets the job done. During the recent Oklahoma State Magic: the Gathering Spring Championship, a very unlikely build actually won the tournament – BW Zombies. While I didn’t like the exact build being used for the BW Zombie deck, it proved that BR and BG Zombies weren’t the only competitors in the standard format. Let’s take a look at some of the cards you’ll need to make your own version of zombie goodness.
- Diregraf Ghoul – this was always a favorite of mine playing BG or Jund Zombies, a deck that I played for a considerable amount of time. A mono-black mana creature that provides you with a 2/2 that can swing or block, Diregraf Ghoul can cause problems for any competitor playing a slow deck.
- Gravecrawler – a staple in any type of zombie deck, the ability to cast Gravecrawler from the graveyard for a single mana makes this an extremely powerful card that your opponent has to continually provide an answer for.
- Geralf’s Messenger – one of my favorite zombies of all time, Geralf’s Messenger slaps your opponent for two damage upon entering the battlefield, and he also has undying. Geralf’s Messenger is often thought of as the aggressive mirror of Kitchen Finks, and rightly so, as their ETB (enters the battlefield) mechanic is exactly opposite of one-another. This card almost ensures you at least four damage against your opponent without ever swinging – his only downside is the three black mana requirement.
- Cartel Aristocrat – this card allows you to sacrifice and recast Gravecrawlers, ensure counters on Geralf’s Messengers, and provides you with immunity to specific colors for each creature you may need to block or get past when you’re attacking. Cartel Aristocrat also works amazingly well in conjunction with the next card, Blood Artist.
- Blood Artist – every time Blood Artist or another creature dies, your opponent loses one life and you gain one. While this may not sound like a powerful ability at a glance, having a few undying creatures on the field along with a sacrificing-fiend like Cartel Aristocrat can do some major damage to your opponent.
- Restoration Angel – you’ll primarily be using this card to bounce your Geralf’s Messenger, doing another two damage to your opponent while also removing his counter, letting you utilize his undying mechanic another time.
- Obzedat, Ghost Council – while Obzedat may have a high mana cost (2WWBB), he can be an incredibly powerful card for those games that need to stretch out. His two damage and two healing upon entering the battlefield alone can prove to be a difficult thing for your opponents to deal with, not to mention the five or more damage he can swing for every round.
These creature cards have a good synergy, building off of one-another in a deceptively quick fashion. Restoration Angel provides a great advantage to this deck over popular BR and BG zombie builds, allowing you to squeeze even more use out of Geralf’s Messenger. Cartel Aristocrat is more or less the icing on the cake, letting you sacrifice creatures at will to do additional damage with Blood Artist or to block any non-trampling creature your opponent swings at you with. Let’s take a look at the instant and sorcery spells we’ll be using for this particular build.
Instant and Sorcery Spells
- Lingering Souls – this card has experienced no shortage of play during standard format play since being released, and it is just as powerful now as it was before. Three mana for two 1/1 flying creatures along with a flashback of two mana for an additional two 1/1 flying creatures can allow you to assemble a whole legion of flying attackers or blockers, depending on what you need at the time.
- Orzhov Charm – the inclusion of this card in the mainboard is somewhat questionable, though a WB cost instant removal spell without limitation can be invaluable at some points in the game. This card will also allow you to return a creature to your hand from the battlefield (avoiding Detention Spheres, Oblivion Rings, and other instant removal), while also returning Diregraf Ghoul or Gravecrawler to your hand.
While only two non-creature cards are listed above, they get the job done. You may also want to consider other spells in your sideboard, such as Tragic Slip, Oblivion Ring, Cower in Fear, and my personal favorite, Tribute to Hunger. I generally use Tragic Slip against opponents playing indestructible creatures, Cower in Fear against opponents using multiple creatures with one toughness, and Tribute to Hunger against opponents playing Bant Hexproof. Let’s take a look at the rest of the cards we need to build this deck.
- Sorin, Lord of Innistrad – while Sorin’s +1 is a pretty useful ability, I actually prefer using his -2 as soon as he hits the battlefield. Using the -2 gives your creatures +1/0, and actually makes a huge difference later in the game (especially with cards like Lingering Souls). If you can get two or three emblems out with Sorin in a single game, your opponent has to get pretty lucky to pull off a win.
- Liliana of the Veil – while Sire of Insanity may be getting a lot of attention as the replacement for Liliana, I still think she’s a fantastic card. Liliana is great for getting rid of creatures, keeping your opponents’ hands empty, and her ultimate ability may actually be something worth writing home about.
Other Notable Cards
- Vault of the Archangel – I generally run two of these in my main deck, giving all of your creatures lifelink and deathtouch can often give you the extra boost you need to win those tough matches.
This deck doesn’t seem like a powerhouse at first look, though if you play it a time or two I believe you’ll fall in love with it. When I first glanced over the decklist I was rather unimpressed, though after going 3-1 in my last tournament (narrowing missing 4-0 against Junk Aristocrats), I’m a believer. I hope you have fun trying out BW Zombies, I’ll see you at Friday Night Magic.
Example Deck Build